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File Transfer Programs

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  • SFTP programs and other software are available through the ITS Software page.

SFTP Terminology: Upload, Download, Put & Get

To understand the terminology of file transfer, it helps to think in terms of physical location. Your computer is right next to you, on your desktop or in your lap. The computer with which you are exchanging information is someplace else, say on NYU's campus, or in California. To move a file closer to you, you get it for your own computer. To move a file farther away, you put it on the other computer.

Traditional network terminology places host computers above personal computers in the network hierarchy. This leads to the terms upload and download. To move a file to a host computer, you move it up the hierarchy. To move a file to your computer, you move it down the hierarchy.

File Types—Text & Binary

There are two basic file types when transferring across the Internet: text and binary.

Text files contain only unformatted text. These are also called text-only, plain text, and ASCII files. Examples of the text type are files created in Teach Text, BBEdit, Notepad or with a DOS editor. HTML files are text files.

Everything else is a binary type file: programs, graphics, word-processing documents, etc. It may seem counter-intuitive that word-processing documents are not text files, but in their native format (Claris Works, Microsoft Word, WordPerfect, etc.), they contain formatting instructions that will be mangled if transferred as text type.

If you want to transfer a word-processing file as a text file, save it as "text only" before transferring. Remember to save the file under a different filename, because saving as text-only removes all formatting information from the file.

File Type for Uploading GIFs and JPEGs

There is an exception to the general "text or binary" rule. On a Macintosh, GIF and JPEG files must be transferred as Raw Data if you intend to use them in a Web page. Web browsers can not read graphic files transferred as MacBinary from a Macintosh.

Compressed Files—.sea, .exe, .sit, .zip, .hqx

When you get files from a public archive, they will usually be compressed. The compression type can often be determined by the extension on the end of the file name. Some common extensions and compression types are: .sea, .exe, .sit, .zip, .hqx.

.Exe and .sea files are self-extracting. You only have to double-click on the file to expand it. .Exe files are for use with Windows; .sea files are for use with Macintosh.

Stuffit for Macintosh handles the file types: .sit, .cpt, .hqx, and .bin; a trail version is available on the ITS Software page.

For instructions on using specific SFTP programs, return to the main SFTP page.

Page last reviewed: June 23, 2011